Zim loves the trivial

Added to this anomaly is another fact that thousands of births are also not being recorded as they occur and are only captured years later when parents want to send their children to school.

THIS has been a long political week in Zimbabwe. Nelson Chamisa resigned from his position in the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change; Job Sikhala was released after nearly two years in prison; and Treasury is still tinkling with the 2024 national budget taxes.

Chamisa’s announcement of his resignation plunged the fractious opposition into deeper turmoil and spelt doom for the nascent opposition party, albeit with its old leadership since the turn of the century.

In abdicating his position, Chamisa cited alleged Zanu PF and State security infiltration of the party, despite that he has been on record saying the party would not have structures as a means to avoid infiltration.

Some CCC MPs quickly joined the chorus of also having resigned from the party, vowing their support for Chamisa. So far, only Mount Pleasant MP and former party spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, has formally resigned from Parliament. Some, while supporting Chamisa have conveniently said they are still consulting their constituencies on the way forward.

We will revert back to this later in the article.

Sikhala has, true to colour, come out of prison more defiant. He told the media he was not hurt by his incarceration because he went into prison fighting for the rights of the oppressed. However, in an interview with the SABC, Sikhala spoke of his disappointment with the CCC leadership for not having done more for his early release nor did it support his family. He has also said he would be making a pronouncement in the near future about his position on the turmoil in CCC.

In Chinua Achebe’s words, things are falling apart and the centre cannot hold. It would be an interesting unfolding of events in the opposition circles between now and the near future. However, one thing is certain — democracy is taking a heavy beating and recovery will be slow and painful.

The third and final big issue of the week, in no order of importance, was Treasury’s new edict that government has reintroduced important duties on basic commodities that were suspended in 2003. The suspension of duty was a result of then falling industry capacity utilisation. The situation has not changed much as most Zimbabwean households still depend on cheap imported goods. 

The new Statutory Instrument — 10A of 2024 published on January 31, 2024 reinstated import duty on 13 basic commodities namely: Cooking oil, maize meal, milk, sugar, rice, flour, salt, bath soap, washing soap, laundry soap, tooth paste, petroleum jelly and washing powder.

It needs no rocket science that three things are going to happen: The increase in the cost of basic commodities; a corresponding increase in smuggling of these items; and a cull in the informal markets — tuckshops that have sprouted in all urban centres.

This is a matter of bread and butter, but in Zimbabwe it is talked about less in the public domain, compared to developments in the opposition politics.

A cursory glance on social media — X, Facebook and WhatsApp — is full of discussions about Chamisa, Sikhala and the goings-on in the CCC. We also have the Shadayas of this world, Mai Titi and Madam Boss who wield huge numbers of audiences on social media for their skits or mundane discussions on sex, street gossip and flaunting of “wealth”.

Is this how shallow we have fallen as a community? So low that the H-Metro sells more copies than  other mainstream media. We are a society where skits have higher audiences than serious radio or television talk-shows on the economy, health or education discussions.

This degeneracy is not only limited to the general public but also in the august house — Parliament — did not even discuss this. They are engaged in mundane issues like trading barbs on the person of their political leaders. This is a sad indictment of our politics.    

We can now revert to the Chamisa issue. I am wondering what could have motivated Mahere to resign from Parliament. I will deliberately not talk about resigning from the party since it had no structures or publicly known members.

Mahere has, in all honesty, sacrificed her budding political career. My mind is still trying to spin around the idea whether this is clear testimony that Zimbabwe’s politics is all about supporting principals more than principles. I speak on the basis of Chamisa not having laid out his plan openly, but they are still followers who are following him. Or does it mean that the party had been operating as factions where others have information which other members are not privy to?

I am keenly waiting to see what issues the CCC MPs will raise in Parliament next week after their suspension for four sittings ended this week. Will they debate about the bread-and-butter issues? The declining purchasing power of workers’ salaries? The shocking numbers of children out of school as highlighted by Unicef last week? Or even the impending food shortages as we approach the peak of the summer season? 

These are some of the serious matters needing urgent attention, but are always on the back burner, overshadowed by internal party-political dynamics in the opposition. The political leaders have to be more mature and realise the political office is to change the lives of the majority.

Former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki once made a profound speech in Malaysia on smart partnerships. It was titled Let’s stop the laughter. He intimated that people outside Africa always laughed at the people on the continent. All the bad things — bad governance, corruption, hunger and diseases and vote rigging were only in Africa. Mbeki argued that we can stop the laughter by stopping these bad vices.

In the same vein, let us stop the laughter about Zimbabwe’s ever splitting opposition parties or the never delivering ruling party even when it has a two-thirds majority. Our politicians should do better. And while still at it, Zimbabweans can for a moment concentrate on the important rather than trivial matters.

  • Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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